For whom the bell tolls…

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With Election Day less than nine weeks away, Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates continue to wait for an indication as to whether any of the candidates for governor will truly stand up against the tide of the corporate education reform industry, including their absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme.

Tens of thousands of votes hang in the balance.

The growing anger and frustration about the corporate takeover of public schools extends well beyond Connecticut.

However, as teachers and public education supporters know, Connecticut is home to the only Democratic Governor in the United States to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining in some of Connecticut’s poorest school districts.

The uncomfortable reality is that the corporate education reform industry is equally aggressive in other states across the country.

In Iowa, Richard Doak, the Des Moines Register’s two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and former editorial page editor recently critiqued Iowa’s incumbent Republican governor Terry Branstad by writing,

“In Iowa and throughout the nation, education “reform” is being driven not by parents and educators but by business leaders. The stated purpose of the reforms is to produce a better labor pool for businesses and make the state and country more economically competitive.

The change in thinking about education in this country has been subtle but profound. The original purpose of public education was to create an enlightened citizenry that would sustain democracy. Now the purpose is to turn out educated workers who have the knowledge employers want.

The extent to which education and other functions of government have been co-opted by the business community is a huge untold story in this country. America is well on its way to becoming a nation of corporate interests, by corporate interests and for corporate interests.”

The editorial could just have easily been written about Connecticut’s incumbent Democrat Governor Dannel “Dan’ Malloy.

With Election Day fast approaching, now is the time for Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates to clarify where the stand;

Do they stand with Connecticut’s students, teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers or will they continue to turn our public schools into little more than testing factories and money pits for an industry that is gorging itself on scarce taxpayer funds while undermining the role of teachers, parents and the local control of public education.

Candidates:  Speak up or you may just find that when it comes to your electoral future, the bell tolls for thee.

Foley and Malloy are just plain wrong on taxes

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[A special note of thanks to all of you who have posted comments and sent emails of support urging me to continue writing posts Wait, What?  While I will continue to mull over the various issues and opportunities, the following is an attempt to gingerly re-enter the fray by using this blog to raise what I feel are important issues as we collectively seek to educate, persuade and mobilize the citizens of Connecticut to take back control of their state government.]

With that as the backdrop, this blog is entitled, Foley and Malloy are just plain wrong on taxes.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is fond of saying that he inherited a $3.7 billion budget deficit when he was sworn into office in January 2011.  (The number comes from reports produced by the Legislature’s independent Office of Fiscal Analysis).

The candidate who is sworn in as Governor of Connecticut in January 2015 will be facing a combined budget deficit of at least $4.8 billion over the next three years. YES – You read that number correctly.  Even after taking into consideration increased revenue from an “improving” economy, Connecticut state government will be $4.8 billion short of what is needed to maintain the present level of services and meet its present statutory obligations.

On the campaign trail, Malloy claims that there is “no deficit” in the future; these projections come from the same independent Office of Fiscal Analyses, the entity he quotes in his regular campaign stump speech.

The truth is that Connecticut continues to face a budget crisis, but rather than tell the truth about the fiscal house of cards that has been built up over the past two decades, the two major party candidates have made a calculated decision that politics trumps reality and that their best tactic is to mislead the voters in the hope that Connecticut citizens will remain docile, compliant and unaware of the fiscal crisis that will not only swallow up their economic stability but that of their children as well.

Malloy has based his campaign on a promise never to propose or accept any tax increase in a second term, while telling voters that he will not cut vital services and telling state employees that he will not need to discuss further concessions with their union leaders.

Tom Foley, in turn, has made an equally strong commitment to a “no tax” pledge” saying that he will honor the existing state employee agreement and that he will not use state employee layoffs to balance the state budget.

In a recent attempt to prove that Foley’s “no tax” pledge is bigger than Malloy’s “no tax pledge,” the Hartford Courant wrote that Foley and his running mate, Heather Somers have even launched a new online “No New Taxes Petition.”

The “I’m no tax, no I’m no tax” charade make Foley and Malloy the modern day equivalents of  Frick and Frack, the two Swiss skaters who their fame as original members of the Ice Follies,  doing ice skating tricks while wearing Lederhosen.

But if the Democrat and Republican candidates for Governor succeed in ducking the real tax issue facing the state, the people of Connecticut, especially our middle income taxpayers, will be the true losers.

The truth is that most of the expenses related to the $4.8 billion projected budget deficit over the next three years must be paid.  Neither Malloy nor Foley can wish or lie the problem away.

For example, Governor Malloy’s irresponsible borrowing policies mean that the state MUST increase its debt service payments by at least $672 million dollars over the next three years and mandatory payments to the state employee and teacher pension and healthcare funds will account for an additional $620 million.

Putting aside critically important issues like the increased costs for education, healthcare, transportation, support and services for citizens with developmental chalengees, our public colleges and universities and all the other areas of state expenditures, Malloy and Foley can pledge that they will not raise any taxes all they want, but the winner of the gubernatorial election will need to come up with $1.3 billion over the next three years just to pay the additional debt service on the state credit card and the minimum payments into the state pension and healthcare funds.

On top of which, while the “no tax” pledges sound good in a television ad, the major party candidates owe the voters a detailed list of where they are going to cut billions from the state budget and how they are going to sidestep having to sit down and talk with state employee unions about the financial crisis.

This isn’t a magic show.  It is an extremely serious decision about who will lead the state and how they will deal with the very real issue of increased taxes.

As taxpayers across Connecticut are aware…

When Malloy introduced his record-breaking tax increase in 2011, he increased the income tax rate for everyone except those making over $1 million a year.  He told a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly that he wasn’t increasing the income tax rate on the wealthy because he didn’t want to “punish success.”

As if Connecticut’s middle class and working families weren’t the ones who really deserved to be called successful.

Furthermore, a growing number of people are aware that in Connecticut, middle income families pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12% and the wealthy about 5-6%.

When Malloy and Foley say their will not support any increase in state taxes, what they ARE saying is that the full burden for maintaining our schools and other important local services will fall on Connecticut’s already overburdened local property taxpayers.

In fact, every time a Connecticut voter hears a gubernatorial candidate say they he will not support additional taxes, they should understand that he is saying that he will continue Malloy’s strategy of coddling the rich and dumping the burden on homeowners, car owners and those who pay property taxes through increased rent.

When it comes to the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, one truth stands out.

Foley and Malloy will use their television ads to claim that they won’t raise taxes.

But there should be a huge disclaimer on those ads that should read:

If this candidate wins, vital state services will be cut and Connecticut’s middle class will be facing massive local property tax increases or face unparalleled cuts to their local public schools.

And no voter, liberal, moderate  or conservative, should cast their vote for either Malloy or Foley until each is willing to explain how they will actually deal with the fiscal realities that are facing Connecticut.

What the ______?  Debate reveals Malloy’s position on teacher tenure is even worse….

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UPDATED WITH ADDENDUM

The question for Governor Malloy should have been a simple one;

Mr. Malloy, you are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so called turnaround schools), will you this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Sadly (but not surprisingly), the moderator of tonight’s debate, the Norwich Bulletin’s Ray Hackett, DID NOT ask Malloy the pivotal question.

Instead he returned to Malloy’s absurd, insulting and idiotic statement that teachers need only show up for school for four years and they’ll get tenure.

And how did Malloy respond to the question?

The Hartford Courant explains;

“Regarding Malloy’s high-profile remark on teacher tenure in an address in the historic Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Malloy said, ‘I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What?

Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is now saying his statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

As if that is a better position?

Malloy’s explanation, two and a half years later is that “It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure…”

The corporate education reform industry, riding high off a successful anti-teacher tenure lawsuit in California, is targeting the single most important element of academic freedom and working conditions for public school teachers and now the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure is saying that his abusive language about teachers “Wasn’t about them.  It was about tenure…”

Is there any Democratic leader in Connecticut or anyone in the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers or the Connecticut Education Association or any other union that will stand up and condemn Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s continuing attack on teacher tenure and public school teachers?

ADDENDUM:

Almost as interesting as Malloy’s decision to reiterate his anti-teacher tenure position is the way in which the media decided to cover Malloy’s quote.  Take a “close reading” of the way the media decided to highlight Malloy’s continued verbal assault on teacher tenure.

Hartford Courant:

On Wednesday, Malloy expressed regret at his choice of words, calling it “bad language.”

“It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure,” Malloy said. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://www.courant.com/community/norwich/hc-ct-governors-race-debate-foley-malloy-0828-20140827,0,7507329.story

CT Newsjunkie:

Hackett also gave Malloy an opportunity to comment on a statement he made in 2012 that infuriated teachers and caused them to rally against his proposal on the steps of the state Capitol.

“I should admit that that was bad language,” Malloy said regarding his remarks. “It wasn’t actually about them, it was about tenure . . . I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying that.”

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_turns_focus_to_foleys_business_record_during_first_debate/

CT Mirror

“I should admit that was bad language,” said Malloy, who was greeted before the debate by rallying unions members, including the president of AFT-Connecticut. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://ctmirror.org/in-first-debate-malloy-apologizes-to-teachers-needles-foley/

Pelto requests that teacher tenure and collective bargaining question be asked at gubernatorial debate

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The Norwich Bulletin newspaper is hosting the first gubernatorial debate tonight between Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Tom Foley.

On behalf of the more than 100,000 active and retired teachers, their families and public education advocates, I am publicly requesting that the following question be asked;

Governor Malloy:  You are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so-called turnaround schools), will you use this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Mr. Foley:  Governor Malloy earned the wrath of teachers and public school advocates when he proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.  Can you tell us whether you would have supported or opposed Governor Malloy’s proposal and what you would do on these two issues if you are elected governor?

Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t

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The Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, “effectively” finishes up his sure to be award winning series on U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “hand-picked” education reform disciple, Terrence Carter, with a breaking news story entitled,  Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t.

Lender, who led the Courant’s investigation of “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the disgraced former head of the Jumoke/ FUSE charter school chain, turned his attention to the highly touted education reform export who the Malloy administration was bringing in to join Special Master Steven Adamowski to “turnaround” New London public schools.

The Courant’s investigative operation quickly determined the truth about “Dr.” Terrence Carter including the fact that despite what Carter claimed, he did not have a Ph.D from Stanford University or Stanford and Oxford Universities or even from Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Among one of “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s many explanations was the observation that while he hadn’t actually received a Ph.D from Lesley in the past, he was going to be given one this month.  He even bragged that when he defended his thesis, the committee informed him that he could now call himself “Dr.”

Well, the good “doctor’s” version of reality appears to be a bit different from the reality that the rest of us live in.

In this afternoon’s Courant article, Lender writes;

Embattled New London school superintendent candidate Terrence P. Carter had been scheduled to receive his Ph.D. in Education Monday from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. — but that didn’t happen.

“I can confirm that Terrence Carter does not have a degree from Lesley University,” Director of Communications John Sullivan said in an email.

He was then whether other candidates received their degrees on Monday’s long-scheduled “conferral date” of Aug. 25, and whether it’s still possible that Carter would receive his doctorate.

“Degrees have already been conferred today. He does not have a degree from Lesley,” Sullivan said in a subsequent email. “Beyond that, I have no further comment on his or any other student’s academic information.”

Carter did not respond to Courant messages seeking comment Monday.

Carter was selected by New London’s school board in June to be its next superintendent of schools, but the Board postponed a vote on awarding him an employment contract in late July.

The postponement came in the wake of newspaper revelations that Carter had used Ph.D. and Dr. with his name for at least five years without having a doctorate from an accredited college, and that large portions of his New London job application essay were identical to language in articles published on the Internet.

Lesley University would not discuss the reasons why Carter’s doctorate was not awarded.

Questions about Carter deepened when a national research organization provided The Courant with a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 including the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which he does not;. Also, The Courant reported that Carter got a Ph.D. in 1996 from “Lexington University” — which doesn’t have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto “Order Now, Graduate Today!”

The school board commissioned an investigation into Carter’s background after the newspaper disclosures in July,. The report on that probe by the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, the board’s legal counsel, is due to be presented at a meeting Thursday night. It’s unclear whether the board will go through that night with its previously scheduled vote on whether to enter an employment contract with Carter.

Carter had told New London officials during the application process that he was due to receive a Ph.D. in education from Lesley this summer — and, in a letter dated June 10, Carter’s senior adviser at Lesley verified that he had “successfully defended his dissertation” on May 28, and would officially be awarded his Ph.D. on the “next degree conferral date, August 25, 2014 — which was Monday.

But that situation has changed, according to Sullivan’s email.

[...]

The Ph.D. that Carter had been scheduled to receive was for a dissertation entitled “Driving Value within a Changing Network of Schools through Learning and Development: The Use of a 360° Feedback Tool To Drive Change and Bring Value in Public Education.”

Carter told the Courant in July he would be willing to send a copy of the dissertation, but he has not done so. Lesley has declined to release a copy.

Carter and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week on Simmons’ letter and other questions concerning the New London situation.

The New London board’s June choice of Carter was watched more closely than most local hirings of school administrators, partly because the state Department of Education has played a strong role in addressing the local system’s record of low performance. The board’s June announcement that it had selected Carter was endorsed publicly by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

You can read Jon Lender’s full story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2225/article/p2p-81175756/

Gubernatorial Debates:  Ask questions that matter.

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On Wednesday, August, 27th, 2014, the Norwich Bulletin newspaper will host the first of the 2014 gubernatorial debates.  Ray Hackett, the Bulletin’s editorial page editor will moderate the debate.

For reasons that I can’t seem to wrap my head around, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and Republican challenger Tom Foley are the only gubernatorial candidates that have been invited to participate in this 2014 debate, which will take place at the Slater Museum auditorium on the campus of Norwich Free Academy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Joe Visconti, who has successfully petitioned onto the November ballot, will be prohibited from participating.

In addition, it appears that the only way to attend the debate is to get one of two hundred tickets, half of which have been provided to the Malloy campaign and the half to the Foley campaign.

Although I may not be on the list, hopefully the future gubernatorial debates will include all of the candidates who have qualified to be on the November ballot.

The debates provide a unique opportunity to ask the candidates the difficult questions that voters deserve to have answered.

If I was a participant in the debates, one of the questions that I would have asked the other candidates is the following:

Governor Malloy:  You are the only Democratic Governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround schools.  While public school advocates and teachers have criticized you for saying a teacher need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, but that is a minor complaint compared to your proposal to actually do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining for a subset of public school teachers.

Mr. Malloy, will you use this moment to renounce your 2012 proposal and can you tell us exactly what is your position on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

 

Mr. Foley/Mr. Visconti:  Governor Malloy earned the wrath of teachers and public school advocates when he proposed, in 2012, to do away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.  Can you tell us whether you would have supported or opposed Governor Malloy’s proposal to end teacher tenure and limit collective bargaining and what you would do on these two issues if you are elected governor.

If it turns out that I am not on the ballot this year, and therefore cannot participate in the debates, I hope the moderators will ask the candidates these and other important questions.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest ---- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

Teacher “wins” appointment to State Board of Education  

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Congratulations to Erin Benham, a Meriden teacher on her appointment to the State Board of Education!

It is great news that a teacher will be added to counter-balance the cadre of corporate education reform industry advocates who have spent the last four years undermining public education.

In an apparent move to show teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is a softer, kinder and more pro-public education governor, Dannel “Dan” Malloy announced today that he has appointed educator Erin Bernham to the State Board of Education.

Erin Benham has been a secondary school teacher for 34 years.  She presently serves as a Literacy Teacher at Lincoln Middle School.

Teacher Benham is also the President of the Meriden Federation of Teachers and the Vice President of the AFT-CT Executive Committee.

Wait, What? readers may remember that the American Federation of Teachers was the union that refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, interview with the AFT Political Action Committee or even speak to the AFT Executive Committee before they endorsed Malloy.

Of more interest than the political connections between Malloy and the AFT leadership is the fact that Benham and the Meriden Federation of Teachers are the recipients of a major grant from the American Federation of Teacher’s national “Innovation Fund.”

The AFT Innovation Fund supports a variety of programs at the local level.  While many of those programs are undoubtedly valuable, the major donor to the American Federation of Teacher’s national Innovation fund is Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.

In 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $4 million to the AFT Innovation Fund and another $4.4 million in 2012.  The money was targeted to pay for the union’s work to build support for the Common Core.

Hopefully Teacher Benham will use her classroom expertise to persuade Malloy and the State Board of Education that while standards are an important part of a successful educational system, the Common Core‘s unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme is hurting Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools and must be suspended until it can be redesigned and appropriately implemented.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

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Pelto Media Statement in Response to Governor Malloy’s Press Release:  GOV. MALLOY: MILLIONS IN ADDITIONAL FUNDING WILL ASSIST STRUGGLING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just issued a press release that began with the following:

HARTFORD, CT) — Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, today hat Alliance Districts are set to receive a total of $132,901,813 in additional funding for the 2014-15 academic year to help implement academic improvement plans.  To date, 28 of 30 Alliance District Year Three plan amendments have been approved, with the final approvals expected in the coming weeks.

In typical fashion, the Governor and Commissioner of Education have used their announcement as a way to further mislead Connecticut’s teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers.

Malloy claims that his “initiative” is providing Connecticut’s 30 most struggling school districts with another $132 million in state aid, but the truth is that this year’s increase is only about $45 million and that in order to get those funds, school districts were required to accept a series of new mandates and programs aimed at further implementing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda and diverting scarce public dollars to private companies.

For example, some of the new money is being used to pay for pet projects such as Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.”

As Connecticut has come to know, Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, Achievement First, Inc. has received more new funding than any other charter school operator in Connecticut.

While most school districts in Connecticut have effectively been flat funded, Achievement First, Inc. has benefited from a massive increase in per pupil funding, more charter school seats, and additional resources from various grants that were once reserved for Connecticut’s real public schools.

And if that windfall wasn’t enough, hidden inside this so-called “new” money for Connecticut’s poorer school districts is yet another special deal for Achievement First, Inc.

Note that in today’s press release, Malloy and Stefan Pryor brag about how 28 or the 30 “Alliance District Year Three Plans” have been approved.

What Malloy and Pryor don’t explain is that in order to get approved, towns were required to include certain education reform initiatives, including forcing Connecticut’s largest school districts to participate in Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.

As part of the program, Connecticut taxpayers will not only pay Achievement First, Inc., for their “services,” but Connecticut school teachers, paid for by Connecticut taxpayer funds, will be sent to teach in Achievement First schools.  This means that in addition to paying the charter school chain $11,500 per student, paying for all of their transportation costs and all of their special education costs, Achievement First, Inc. will be will be further subsidized thanks to having taxpayer-funded public school teachers working in their privately-run charter schools.

Achievement First, Inc. calls their “Residency Program” a “unique opportunity.”

There is no doubt about that, it is a unique opportunity for Achievement First to get more of our public funds.

When more and more questions are being raised about the lack of oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are diverting record amounts of public money to charter schools.

While Malloy claims he is investing another $132 million into Connecticut’s poorest schools, the truth is that Connecticut taxpayers are being forced to waste even more money on Malloy’s failed education reform policies.

All this while our public school students continue to be left without the support they need and deserve.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy promises to “stay the course” on education reform!

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It turns out that it took less than 24 hours for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to make it clear that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s departure IS NOT a sign that Connecticut’s anti-teacher, pro-corporate education reform Democratic governor is going to use a second term to do a better job representing the concerns of teachers, students, parents and public school advocates in Connecticut.

Although Malloy is the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in “turnaround” schools, the announcement that Stefan Pryor will be leaving his position at the end of this year was seen by some as a signal that Malloy was going to shift away from his corporate education reform industry and privatization policies and would use a second term to provide more support for Connecticut’s real public education system.

But at a stop yesterday at the Day newspaper of New London, Malloy made his real intentions clear,

“During a brief, surprise visit to The Day on Monday, part of a campaign push through the area, the governor assured us he will stay the course on education reform if re-elected.”

As proponents of public education know, significant changes are needed to close the achievement gap between students who live in rich and poor communities, but “staying the course” with the corporate education reform industry’s agenda is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

It would seem that when it comes to Malloy’s campaign for re-election, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

You can read the Day editorial at: http://www.theday.com/article/20140820/OP01/308209937

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

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