Malloy’s austerity budget strategies are hurting Connecticut

  • Record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools and institutions of higher education.
  • Drastic and devastating cuts to vital human services
  • Continuation of corporate welfare programs and efforts to coddle the rich.

Governor Dannel Malloy, with the help of the Connecticut General Assembly, is destroying core government programs and undermining Connecticut’s economic path.

This legislative session, the Democrats in the Connecticut legislature will be faced with a choice – continue Malloy’s disastrous policies – or stand up to the bully and pass a fair and honest state budget.

In order to adopt a better budget solution legislators will need to identify new sources of revenue to pay for vital state services and programs.

To that end, Connecticut Voices for Children has released a major report – today – on Revenue Options to deal with Connecticut’s Fiscal Crisis

Providing a light for Connecticut legislators should they decided to do their job and resolve Connecticut’s massive budget crisis, Connecticut Voices for Children released a report today entitled, Revenue Options are Key to Tackling Budget Shortfalls and Supporting Thriving Communities

CT Voices writes;

In confronting budget deficits of more than $3 billion in the upcoming biennial budget, the commonsense choice for Connecticut should be a balanced approach that includes revenue, rather than a cuts-only approach that threatens an already fragile recovery. Last year, lawmakers chose an “austerity” approach, balancing the budget with $850 million in spending cuts. As a result, the Children’s Budget—a measure of the state’s investments in children and families—fell to a record low 29.5 percent of total General Fund spending.

While such cuts may offer a short-term solution, they do so at a significant cost to the long-term economic structure of the state. 

On the revenue side, there are opportunities to invest in Connecticut’s future by modernizing an outdated sales tax system, strengthening taxes on corporations, and reforming wealth and income taxes. This brief highlights revenue options discussed and/or recommended by the State Tax Panel– –a body of experts who met over the course of two years to evaluate Connecticut’s state and local taxes. While the Panel’s final recommendations were required to be revenue neutral, the policies themselves can be adapted to yield new revenue to support essential investments in our future.

 By combining increased revenue, new strategic investments, and smaller budget cuts, the Governor and the Legislature can both balance the budget and position the state for a more prosperous future. 

 

One of the key elements of the report is an effort to explore a variety of options to ensure that the state’s wealthiest residents start paying their fair share.

Looking to reform wealth and income taxes in Connecticut, CT Voices observes;

A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that Connecticut’s income distribution is the third most unequal state in the nation.7 The report cites upside down total state and local tax systems (which impose a higher effective rate on lower income taxpayers) and the growth in the share of investment income (from dividends, capital gains, and interest) to total income that goes primarily to high-income households, as contributing factors 

Indeed, Connecticut’s overall tax system (including income, property, and sales and excise taxes, minus federal deductions) allows the most powerful among us to pay a much lower percentage of their income in taxes. For example, a family making less than $25,000 a year pays an estimated 11 percent in state and local taxes while a family making over $1,331,000––the top 1 percent––pays 5.5 percent.8 If the top 5 percent of Connecticut households paid the same effective tax rate as the remaining 95 percent of households, the state could raise more than $2 billion in state revenue annually.  

Combined, the listed changes could raise more than $1 billion while also creating a fairer tax system and reducing wealth inequality: 

Increase Top Tax Rate for Top Two Tax Groups ($238 million):     A half percentage point increase on the top two personal income tax brackets would result in an estimated $283.1 million in new state revenue—more than 82 percent of which would fall on the top 1 percent of taxpayers. Over a third of this tax increase would be offset by larger federal income tax deductions typically available to high-income earners, meaning that of the $238 million in new revenue, the state would raise $150.4 million from taxpayers, while the other $87.6 million would be picked up by the federal government.   

Increase Capital Gains and Dividends Taxes for Top Three Tax Groups ($134.6 million):     Carried interest is the share of earnings that investment managers receive from a profitable return of their client’s investment. The federal government treats carried interest as investment income, or capital gains, rather than as wages or commissions. This preferential treatment results in a federal tax liability that is 50 percent less than it would be for ordinary income. This is known as the carried interest loophole. Despite bipartisan support, little hope exists that Congress will take action. By increasing the tax on capital gains and dividends at the state level, Connecticut could redress the large preferences these two types of income enjoy in the federal tax code and raise $134.6 million.

Taxing capital gains and dividends would represent a return to historical treatment of unearned income. When Connecticut’s income tax was enacted in 1991, taxes were also cut for higher-income earners by eliminating a 7 percent tax on capital gains and a 14 percent tax on dividends and interest. Thereafter, investment incomes were subjected to the state income tax at a much lower rate of 4.5 percent. While the top income tax rate has increased to 6.99 percent, it is still below pre-1991 levels for unearned income. Moreover, any increased taxes on unearned income, like any increase on earned income, would be offset in part by larger federal income tax deductions. 

Millionaires Thrive in Connecticut Thanks to Public Investments Anti-tax advocates have been inaccurately citing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data in an effort to convince their audience that higher taxes have resulted in a “mass exodus” of residents seeking low tax states.9 They assert that the income of residents who moved out of the state is income lost to another state, therefore depleting Connecticut’s finances. It is a claim that former Tax Foundation economist Lyman Stone has written rests “on an egregiously wrong use of the data” by analysts who “have either failed to perform the most basic due diligence…or else actively mislead their readers.” In other words, the vast majority of people who leave a state hold jobs that will be filled by people joining the labor force from within the state or moving in, resulting in no “loss of income” at all.   

Indeed, a 2016 study found that millionaires were much less likely to move than the rest of the population and that there was only a very small influence of income tax rates on the probability of moving. This study, based on 13 years of IRS tax data from all millionaires in the U.S., found that millionaire mobility and the low levels of responsiveness of millionaires to taxes meant that top tax rates would only start to decrease revenue if they were significantly higher than the single digit rates of Connecticut. A half percent, one percent, or two percent increase in the top tax bracket would not have a negative impact on revenue due to migration.  

Join Regional Compact to Close Carried Interest Loophole ($535 million):  Another way in which states could act to close the carried interest loophole in light of inaction in Washington D.C. would be to form a regional compact. Already raised by the New York and New Jersey legislatures, the proposed legislation calls for Northeastern states to impose a tax rate on carried interest sufficient to capture each state’s share of the increased federal income tax liability that would be incurred if the loophole were closed at the federal level. Both states’ proposals call for a 19 percent “carried interest fairness fee” until the loophole is closed at the federal level. By definition, the compact would not go into effect until all states (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) enacted the same provisions. It is estimated that Connecticut could raise $535 million by doing so.

And the Connecticut Voices report outlined a number of other steps that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly could take to deal with Connecticut’s fiscal crisis.  The full report can be found at:  http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/Revenue%20Options%202017_0.pdf

Draining dollars from our students by Wendy Lecker

Columnist and education advocate Wendy Lecker writes about Governor Dannel Malloy’s attack on Connecticut’s public schools and his ongoing effort to privatize public education in Connecticut.

In Draining dollars from our students, Wendy Lecker writes;

Though the CCJEF v. Rell trial, Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled that the Connecticut provides more than adequate school funding, his actual findings of fact, found in the Appendix to his decision, confirm CCJEF’s claims that public schools are woefully under-resourced.

The judge found that CCJEF districts had severe deficiencies in special education teachers, interventionists for reading and math, social workers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, and services for English Language Learners. Bridgeport was forced to cut 73.5 teachers, including special education teachers, social workers and psychologists in one year, even as the population grew. New Britain had to make similar cuts.

Adequate funding for all means that children who need extra support to learn get it. As the New York court said, the opportunity for an adequate education “must be placed within reach of all students.”

Moukawsher found that CCJEF districts lacked resources to provide their most vulnerable students with the extra help and support they need to access basic educational opportunities. Therefore, his conclusion that the state is providing more than adequate funding is astounding.

Because of Moukawsher’s ruling, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy felt free to cut $20 million in school aid from the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) school funding formula last week.

Districts that cannot afford teachers must scramble to fill a quarter-of-a-million-dollar hole halfway through the school year.

Simultaneously, the Malloy administration announced plans to expand publicly funded, privately managed charter schools. Austerity is only imposed on district public schools, apparently.

Compounding the damage to public school funding, Malloy’s allies intend to “reform” Connecticut’s school funding formula to drain more public dollars from public schools — toward privately run charter schools.

As the Malloy administration recently acknowledged, district public schools are the vehicle the state chose to discharge its constitutional responsibility to educate children. Although the state must ensure adequate funding, in reality the state and municipalities share the financial burden. State education funding never covers the full cost of education. The state provides a portion and the local municipality fills in the rest, with the federal government contributing a small amount. When the state fails to pay its fair share, municipalities must to make up the gap.

Successful school funding reforms start with an analysis of what it costs to educate children. Once the cost is determined, states find they must increase school spending. Those increases have been proven to improve educational and life outcomes, especially for poor children.

To begin serious reform, Connecticut must assess what it costs today to bring an adequate education within the reach of all students.

However, Malloy’s charter allies do not want to discuss the cost of education. Their agenda is to simply to get the legislature to include charter schools in any new school funding formula. Why? So local districts would be required to fund charters from local budgets.

State charter schools are considered independent districts. Local districts do not receive state allocations for students attending charter schools nor are they required pay the local contribution for children in charter schools. The host district has no say over the charter schools located within its borders. State law does require local school districts to pay for transportation and special education costs for children attending charter schools. Aside from that, charters are funded by state allocations, federal funds and private donations.

Charters are not funded like district public schools because they differ from public schools. They are statutorily created and can be discontinued anytime. They need not serve all grade levels nor provide the same services as public schools, and do not have to hire certified teachers. They are also exempt from other state mandates and accountability.

The charter lobby’s proposal would require local districts to pay for any costs for charters not covered by the state. Local taxpayers would now pay for charters like they pay for their own schools; without having any voice in charter schools and without charters following the same rules as public schools. As the state decides to expand charters, more local dollars will be drained from public schools toward these independent schools. In Rhode Island, where this system exists, districts lose tens of millions of dollars annually to charters.

Draining more money from impoverished school districts will not improve education for Connecticut’s neediest children. If our leaders are serious about school funding reform, they must start with assessing the true cost of providing every child with an adequate education. Only then can we have an honest discussion about how we can serve the educational needs of all our children.

Wendy Lecker’s column first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on it at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Draining-dollars-from-our-students-10840529.php

Will Governor Malloy propose boondoggle for charter schools under guise of new education funding formula?

Connecticut’s existing school funding formula is unfair, inappropriate and unconstitutional.  It leaves Connecticut’s public schools without the resources they need and places an unfair burden on Connecticut’s middle income families.

The CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit, which should have been called the CCJEF v. Malloy suit, made the problem extremely clear.

The time has come to return to the fundamental principles that served as the underpinning of the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) Formula before it was gutted by Governor Malloy and previous Connecticut governors and legislatures.

However, rather than step up and address the major flaws with the existing failed funding system, Governor Dannel Malloy made a thinly veiled reference today, in his State of the State Address, that he plans to propose a new state education funding formula, one that would likely pump even more scarce public funds to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

In addition, Malloy appears poised to suggest that any increase in education funding be restricted to only the poorest communities and that it come with strict new red tape and mandates, a move that will make it even more difficult for local school boards to provide students with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Since taking office in 2011, Governor Malloy has failed to adequately fund Connecticut’s real public schools, which in turn has translated to reduced programs and higher local property taxes – not only in Connecticut’s 30 poorest towns, but in communities across the state.

Compounding the problem, Malloy has successfully diverted more than $100 million dollars a year to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools, despite the fact that these private companies fail to accept and educate their fair share of students who require special education services, those who need help learning the English language and those who have disciplinary issues.

Now as his time in office is coming to an end, Malloy appears unwilling to truly address the fact all public schools, not just those in the poorest districts, need additional state aid.

Instead Malloy’s speech today suggests that he is laying the ground work to further privatize public education, while saddling poorer cities and towns with even more mandates, rules and regulations.

Malloy’s flowery, but hollow, words today included the following;

 “Connecticut needs a new way to calculate educational aid—one that guarantees equal access to a quality education regardless of zip code”

It will be based on the local property tax burden, student need, and current enrollment.

The system will be designed to be more fair, transparent, accountable, and adaptable—meaning that it will provide flexibility to fit the needs of a given community.

The result will be a fairer distribution of our state’s limited funds.

And if we are successful in this effort, there will be an important ancillary benefit—we can help ensure that no Connecticut city or town will need to explore the avoidable path of bankruptcy.

To be clear, that kind of help shouldn’t come without strings attached. If the state is going to play a more active role in helping less-affluent communities—in helping higher-taxed communities—part of that role will be holding local political leadership and stakeholders to substantially higher standards and greater accountability than they’ve been held to in the past. We should do it so that increased aid doesn’t simply mean more spending on local government.

Stay tuned for what Malloy will really propose when he issues his budget next month.

You can read Malloy’s full speech here – Malloy State of the State address

Breaking News – In unprecedented maneuver, Malloy cuts $20 million in school aid in the middle of the fiscal year

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Connecticut already underfunds its public schools, under the effective darkness of the holiday week, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration announced today that he is slashing $20 million from Connecticut’s Education Funding (ECS) Formula.

As testimony in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit made clear earlier this year, Connecticut’s utter failure to properly fund its public schools is hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and schools.  The lack of appropriate state aid for education also unfairly shifts the tax burden onto Connecticut’s local property taxpayers … a move that disproportionately hurts Connecticut’s middle income families.

But now Malloy is making the situation even worse by cutting state aid for education to Connecticut’s cities and towns right in the middle of the school year, a tactic that will leave communities on the hook for making emergency cuts to programs or trying to come up with alternative revenue to maintain existing programs that are designed to benefit Connecticut’s public school students.

It was only a few weeks ago that Malloy and his operatives were intentionally misleading Connecticut voters by claiming that the state budget was balanced when a growing deficit was actually taking shape.

Now, rather than target wasteful spending, Malloy is aiming his budget ax directly at some of the state’s most important and vulnerable citizens.

By dumping his fiscal problems on local property taxpayers, Malloy continues his warped approach of coddling the rich at the expense of everyone else.

In addition, Malloy’s state department of education announced earlier this week that it is seeking proposals to fund even more charter schools, a strategy that will divert even more scarce funds away from public schools and to the private sector.

Check back for more on this breaking story in the days ahead.

NEWS FLASH – Malloy, State Employee Unions DROP KICK $13 billion plus onto the backs of our children

Governor Dannel Malloy, in concert with Connecticut’s State Employee Unions, have joined forces to shift a major portion of Connecticut’s massive unfunded pension liability onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and those yet to come.

Call it an outrageous effort to kick the can so far down the road that no one will be around to remember what today’s elected officials have done to the economic well-being of those who aren’t yet voters and those who haven’t even shown up on this earth.

Worse yet, the action will probably be taken without a vote of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Warning that such a disastrous deal would be forthcoming, Wait, What? published two recent commentary pieces on the topic.

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children.   (Via CT Mirror 12-8-16)

And

Warning – Malloy likely to propose shifting State’s massive unfunded liability problem onto our children  (12-1-16)

But the warnings fell on deaf ears as Connecticut’s governor now seeks to duck significant responsibility for paying down Connecticut’s unfunded state employee pension fund.

As CT Mirror explains in a breaking story entitle, Malloy, unions strike deal to stretch out spiking CT pension costs;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a deal Friday with state employee unions that would allow Connecticut to dodge a fiscal iceberg by holding down annual pension costs otherwise set to spike over the next 16 years.

But to get that relief, Connecticut would shift at least $13.8 billion in estimated pension expenses owed before 2032 onto a future generation.

[…]

For now, though, the agreement shifts a heavy burden to a future generation on the argument that this one simply cannot afford to pay the full burden it faces.

The CT Mirror adds;

Under the new agreement, this year’s $1.6 billion annual cost essentially would remain flat next fiscal year. It originally was supposed to increase by about $84 million. But after that it would rise steadily until it reaches $2.2 billion in 2022.

It could remain there — depending on how pension investments fare — until 2032.

It would drop below $1.8 billion in 2033 and, from there, it would remain close to $1.7 billion through at least 2046.

[…]

The Malloy administration did not release an estimate Thursday of that lost investment opportunity. But a spokesman said the cost could be calculated in the coming weeks after an actuarial analysis of the new pension funding plan is completed.

This plan could be approved, under current legislative rules, without a vote from lawmakers, provided neither the House nor Senate vote to reject it within 30 days after the 2017 session begins on Jan. 4.

For more on this developing story go to: http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/09/malloy-unions-strike-deal-to-stretch-out-spiking-ct-pension-costs/

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children (via CT Mirror)

A special thanks to the CT Mirror for posting Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children.  You can read and comment on this important issue at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/12/08/dont-shift-connecticuts-unfunded-liability-problem-onto-our-children/

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children

Eroding revenues, red ink and poor fiscal management continue to undermine Connecticut’s state budget.  Unaltered, the present approach will make it increasingly difficult, even impossible, for our children and future generations to have a state government that fulfills its fundamental and constitutional duty to provide for a healthier, safer and more equitable society.

But the problem is about to get far worse.

The fiscal crisis facing Connecticut is severe, but rather than step up and truly address the crisis, Gov. Dannel Malloy and many state legislators continue to turn a blind eye to their responsibility, especially when it comes to addressing the failures of the past.

Since he took office in January 2011, Malloy’s fiscal policies have been based on a reckless strategy of coddling the rich, outrageous acts of corporate welfare, record cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, reducing the availability of vital public services and undermining public education … all while shifting more and more of the burden to pay for public services onto Connecticut’s regressive and anti-middle income property tax system.

Denying the very real fiscal problems that are facing the state, Malloy and his political operatives have bounced back and forth between denying the very existence of state deficits and lamenting the arrival of a new economic reality.

Many will remember that upon his arrival in the governor’s office, Malloy whined about the fact that he had “inherited” a $3.7 billion budget shortfall following the fiscally irresponsible policies of Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly.

However, rather than use his time in office put the state back on track, Malloy’s irresponsible budget tactics have further exacerbated Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

Proof of this growing disaster can be found in the reality that as the Malloy administration prepares to propose Connecticut’s next state budget, the state is faced with a projected biennial budget shortfall in excess of $3.3 billion and growing.

And by failing to resolve Connecticut’s year-to-year budget problems, the situation facing the state’s pension and retiree healthcare obligations has become particularly severe.

Now, having squandered the opportunity to institute a special income tax surcharge on Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers to pay down some of the massive debt and unfunded liabilities, the options are fewer and the problems are bigger.

If history is any lesson, Malloy’s “solution” to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis will be to propose another state budget plan full of gimmicks, but this time the issue will be compounded by a plan to dump even more of the responsibility for dealing with the state’s catastrophically high debt and unfunded liabilities onto our children and future generations.

It is certainly no secret that behind closed doors Malloy and his team are developing a proposed FY18-FY19 state budget built on more cuts to vital services, shifting even more of the burden for a college education onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families and significantly reducing the amount of municipal aid, thereby further increasing property tax rates on Connecticut’s middle income families.

What is less understood is that Malloy will likely propose walking away from Connecticut’s near term obligation to confront the state’s $74 billion debt and unfunded liabilities.

The truth is that for decades Connecticut state government has refused to properly fund its state employee and teacher pension and benefit plans.

Making matters even worse, Malloy and the legislature have been using the state’s credit card in inappropriate ways, including his decision to use borrowed funds to pay for his failed, but much heralded, corporate welfare program designed to pick winners and losers and reward companies he favors.

Now, all of these “chickens are coming home to roost.”  Yet rather than step up and take action to reduce state debt and adequately fund Connecticut’s pension and benefits funds, Malloy may propose “kicking the can down the road” by shifting even more of the burden onto Connecticut’s children and future generations, a maneuver that will dramatically increase the cost to taxpayers over time.

The harsh reality is that when faced with the critically important obligation to do what is right, Connecticut’s elected officials – Democrat and Republican – have remained committed to a motto that reads, “Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

The result of such a tactic is not only exacerbating Connecticut’s fiscal problems, but condemning our children and future generations.

If Connecticut voters are not outraged, they aren’t paying enough attention.

Once again, weigh in on this important issue at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/12/08/dont-shift-connecticuts-unfunded-liability-problem-onto-our-children/

Warning – Malloy likely to propose shifting State’s massive unfunded liability problem onto our children

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy’s fiscal policies have been based on a reckless strategy of coddling the rich, record cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, reducing the availability of vital public services and undermining public education … all while shifting more and more of the burden to pay for public services onto Connecticut’s regressive and anti-Middle Class property tax system.

Some will remember that upon his arrival in the Governor’s Office, Dannel Malloy whined about the fact that he had “inherited” a $3.7 billion budget shortfall following the fiscally irresponsible policies of Governor Jodi Rell and the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly.

However, rather than use his time in office to put the state back on track, Malloy’s irresponsible budget tactics have further exacerbated Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

Proof of this growing disaster can be found in the reality that as the Malloy administration prepares to propose Connecticut’s next state budget, the governor and his staff are facing a projected biennial budget shortfall in excess of $3.3 billion and growing.

Will this be the year that Governor Dannel Malloy finally takes the steps necessary to confront the budget problems challenging the state?

The answer is almost certainly a resounding NO!.

Sources close to Malloy are reporting that the neo-liberal politician’s “solution” to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis will be to propose a budget full of gimmicks, all the while dumping the responsibility for dealing with the state’s catastrophically high debt and unfunded liabilities onto our children and future generations.

Behind closed doors, Malloy and his team have begun the task of putting together the state’s FY18-FY19 proposed budget.  Knowledgeable sources suggest that this new budget will be built on more cuts to vital services, shifting even more of the burden for a college education onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families and significantly reducing the amount of municipal aid, thereby further increasing the property tax rates on Connecticut’s middle income families.

Equally appalling is the growing probability that Malloy, with the support of the legislature, will simply walk away from the state’s obligation to confront its $74 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.

For decades Connecticut state government has refused to properly fund its state employee and teacher pension and benefit plans.

Making matters even worse, Malloy and the legislature have been using the state’s credit card in inappropriate ways, including Malloy’s much heralded corporate welfare program designed to reward companies he favors.

Now all of those “chickens are coming home to roost,” but rather then step up and take action to reduce state debt and adequately fund pension and benefits, it now appears that Malloy will simply propose dumping the burden onto Connecticut’s children and future generations.

While facing the fundamental obligation to do what is right, their operating motto seems to remain – Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow – no matter how devastating that delay will be for our children and those yet to come.

If Connecticut voters are not outraged, they aren’t paying enough attention.

Charter School Industry – Big Donations to Malloy, No Oversight from Malloy administration

When it comes to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Charter School Industry, two things are certain.  The campaign money from charter school advocates has been flowing into Malloy’s political operation at record levels while Malloy’s administration has been turning a blind eye to the fact that charter schools are violating Connecticut laws, regulations and policies.

Even the most cursory review of state and federal campaign finance reports reveal that Malloy’s pro-charter school agenda continues to pay “big dividends.”

Major donors associated with ConnCAN, the Achievement First charter school chain and other corporate education reform entities have donated in excess of $250,000 to Malloy’s Democratic State Central Committee in just the last four years.

Leading the way has been Jonathan Sackler, a member of both ConnCAN’s and Achievement First’s Board of Directors.  Sackler and his immediate family have given Malloy’s state Democratic committee more than $116,000 and that doesn’t even count the donations that have come from Sackler’s political action committee, the Purdue Pharma PAC.

In addition to Sackler’s money, charter school executives and the financial backers of the corporate education reform movement have donated tens of thousands more to Malloy’s political aspirations in recent years

And as education advocate and school finance expert Wendy Lecker observed in an article last summer, Malloy’s education policies have led to, A void in oversight of charter schools

Writing in the Stamford Advocate, Wendy Lecker explained;

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, longtime State Board of Education member Joseph Vrabely 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 Demsey, 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.

Malloy administration fails to properly regulate Connecticut charter schools.

Charter schools are privately owned, but publicly funded organizations that grab more than $110 million a year from Connecticut taxpayers.

But thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school policies, charter schools are allowed to violate Connecticut laws and walk away from their obligations to Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers.

For example, charter schools fail to hire certified teachers and employees.  See Wait What? post entitled Connecticut charter schools violate state law with use of uncertified teachers and administrators

In addition;

Charter schools refuse to educate their fair share of students who require special education services or those who need help learning the English language

And

Charter schools maintain inappropriate and unfair discipline policies that lead to unacceptably high numbers of students being suspended from school.

Instead of stepping up and ensuring these corporations are following the laws, regulations and policies, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration simply looks the other way.

Earlier this year, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education made her position extremely clear.

As the CT Mirror reported;

 The state education commissioner says she does not have the same obligations in investigating complaints from parents, students and teachers against charter schools that she does for regular public schools.

The state says charter schools are not subject to what is known as a 10-4b process, which lays out mandatory steps the state must follow to respond to complaints. The state said it has more discretion about whether and how to proceed with complaints against charter schools than it does for schools operated by local school boards.

[…]

The issue is a symptom of a larger controversy over whether charter schools should be given the increased latitude they have to run their schools while still receiving millions of dollars in state education aid

The failure to properly regulate charter schools has become so severe the national financial experts are now calling for greater charter school oversight.

A national publication recently covered this very issue in NFMA Calls for Detailed Charter School Disclosures.

The National Federation of Municipal Analysts is urging charter schools to provide detailed financial, academic, and staffing information in primary and secondary disclosure documents.

The news article added;

“The charter school sector has been very active in the last … four to five years [and] it traditionally has not had a lot of public rating coverage,” said Gilbert Southwell, vice president at Wells Capital Management and co-chair of the NFMA disclosure subcommittee that drafted the paper. “[The RBP] is both educational for our membership but also helps to establish our disclosure expectations when we’re looking at these deals.”

Dean Lewallen, vice president and senior analyst at AllianceBernstein L.P. and co-chair of the subcommittee with Southwell, said the RBP is the product of a year-long vetting process with a variety of market participants and thus reflects “an industry consensus.”

The document’s recommendations begin with key information that should be included in a primary offering statement (POS). According to the RBP, a charter school’s POS should disclose all material financial agreements, including the proposed indenture, loan agreement, capital leases, management agreements, and tax regulatory agreements. It should also include information from twelve other broader topics, like descriptions of facilities and their financing, pledged revenues, and projected cash flows. NFMA also wants descriptions of debt service, repair and replacement, operating and deficit, as well as insurance and property tax reserve funds.

The RBP lists disclosures in a successful charter school POS related to academic performance as well as school management and operations.

“A charter school’s academic performance has been identified as an especially important factor in charter school long-term stability and success,” NFMA said in its RBP. “Consequently, the POS should disclose all relevant aspects of the charter school academic performance.”

Charter schools cost taxpayers huge amounts of money.  Malloy’s gift to Connecticut’s charter schools are closing in on half a billion dollars in public fund.  It is time that elected officials make sure these corporate entities meet the same basic standards that public schools must adhere too.

Connecticut charter schools violate state law with use of uncertified teachers and administrators

As a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school agenda, Connecticut taxpayers hand over more than $110 million a year to the state’s charter school industry.  This largess comes despite the fact that Connecticut’s charter schools refuse to accept and educate their fair share of students with special education needs and those who require extra help learning the English language.

Equally appalling is that these privately owned, but publicly funded, schools refuse to follow Connecticut law when it comes to the use of certified teachers and school administrators.

Connecticut State Law is extremely clear.

For public schools, 100% of the teachers, administrators and service staff MUST hold an appropriate certification and authorization for the position in which they are serving.  State certification not only ensures that teachers and school personnel have appropriate training but it also means these individuals have gone through background checks before being allowed to teach children.

State law even mandates that public schools cannot even pay non-certified teachers and administrators.

However, thanks to aggressive lobbying by the charter school industry, charter schools “play” by a very different set of rules.

In charter schools, only 50% of the teachers, administrators and professionals must hold a traditional state certificate such as an initial, provisional or professional educator certificate.

This means that up to 50% may serve under a “temporary authorization” process or have what is deemed a “quick and easy” certification from a charter school preparation program.  In no case are charter schools allowed to use teachers and staff who don’t hold permanent or temporary certification.

Yet despite this enormous flexibility, Connecticut’s charter schools are notorious for still having a significant percentage of their staff “out of compliance” with Connecticut’s statutes and regulations.

This result is that parents of charter school students cannot be sure whether their student’s teachers and administrators are meeting the most basic requirements to be in a classroom and that taxpayers are paying for staff who should not even be hired by the charter schools.

The data on the magnitude of the problem in charter schools can been found at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

According to official reports filed with the State Department of Education, and current as of March 2016, 14 out of 24 (58%) Connecticut charter schools are were violating the law when it comes to ensuring students have properly authorized staff in the building.

It will not come as a surprise to those who follow “education entrepreneur” Steve Perry, that the greatest violator of the law is the Capital Prep Charter school chain.  As of March 2016, 80% of Bridgeport Capital Prep Harbor School’s staff did not have any certification what-so-ever and were therefore in violation of state law.

A number of other charter schools had staffing operations in which at least 30% of the staff were teaching or administrating illegally.  This list included Achievement First Amistad, Achievement First Bridgeport, Achievement First Hartford Academy, Achievement First Elm City, the Stamford Academy and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence.

Other charter schools in which at least 10% of the staff were in violation of Connecticut law included Booker T. Washington Charter School, Brass City Charter School, Highville Charter School, New Beginnings Family Academy charter school and Path Academy Charter School.

Rather than giving Connecticut charter schools even more state money, state officials should be withholding funds until charter schools fulfill their legal duty to their students, parents and the taxpayers of Connecticut.